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Friday, January 13, 2012

Is it Innovation Or just Common sense

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Dogs are a part of my family’s life.  Always have been, but until my family started our journey into the world of pure bred dogs and got a first hand feel for the gears behind it, the established purist clicks and the extremist animal rights groups on either side of the fence.  We never really knew just how bad the situation was for our canine companions or how blind we humans can be in our quest for a badge of honor to elevate our egos or to liberate the canine world from human cruelty by preventing dogs from breeding and punishing those who breed with threats and violence.
  • As children we grow up with our family pet and never really understood anything about how this companion to our families came to be.  Nothing beyond the fact that it was just here when we woke up and it was here when we went to sleep in our life.  We grew up, it grew old and eventually it died we mourned it and then we went on with our life.  Our parents took on the task of caring for it, deciding whether to take it to the vet when it was sick, and eventually decided on the course of action prior to its death.  Back then, our parents likely didn’t do much more homework on the choice for the dog they wanted beyond looking at what was the most popular breed, the slickest looking, the oddest looking or the cheapest one available.  And the pet stores were likely the first choice for the place to get that family companion.
Our Dogs outdoor playground
  • For clarity, dogs, as we know them today, no matter what any breed club behind them may say to the contrary, are all man made creations.  If they are in a registry, have a listed studbook and a list of standards they are supposed to meet in order to represent their “kind”.  Then they are literally man made.  They were designed through selective breeding and human vanity to be what they are in the form we see them today.  You might hear stories of the pariah breed that has existed in the wild in the form we see it in for centuries prior.  Sorry, but that’s not true.  All dogs are linked to centuries of lineages till the dawn of the existence of the Canis Lupus Familiaris species.  But, man designed all the forms we see today within the last century.  And within the last several decades they’ve been evolved into whatever form we see now.  The identities of all these breeds, as we see them today, were designed by none other than humans.  The Purists and the Extremists just seem to always deny this.
  • What the Chatham Hill Gang has learned, from our experience in the circles that revolve around the dog show driven side of the purists world, is that cosmetics are primarily what drive the decisions to breed for the dogs we see today.  In order to meet the requirements of these standards put in place by the established clubs that represent the breeds in question.  Sure there are also considerations for temperament and physical abilities based off of the adjacent category of trial dogs.  But in general, if these dogs are to be dual purpose and most of them are, they also need to meet the visual standards of an excellent representation of their kind. 
  • And just how do these breeders do this in order to maintain the look they desire and the traits they feel are required?  Well for many of them it’s a matter of breeding from the same lineages from their dogs relatives in the hopes to retain these characteristics from one generation to the next, they further try to confine the breeding to the few lines created from established champions in the dog show world.  Thus creating hundreds of offspring from the bloodline of a few stud champion dogs.  In other words they call it line breeding, however if you think about it and really understand what is involved with this process its really just a form of inbreeding.  And for some of these breeders the concept of inbreeding is absolutely acceptable.  Hmmmm. 

The Hills for our dogs to play on
  • All breeders in the trial circles will say, these dogs were all bred for a purpose.  Okay, I believe them to a point.  When our ancestors required dedicating a portion of their lives to actually go out and hunt for their meat, then I can literally see why they required a dog that was engineered with the best of intentions to perform the given tasks of the day.  But, how does this translate into modern times?  No one in my circle of friends goes hunting because they have to.  The ones that do only do it as a pastime to continue their family traditions or to experience the hunt or as a leisure pastime activity with their buddies, but none of them do it because they absolutely need to.  In fact its much easier for them to just go to the local market and buy the meat they desire.  In fact it may even be healthier if you consider the amount of parasites on, and within the game meat they might bring down. 
  • So the majority of our societies in modern times in the areas where people actually create the demand to buy the dogs that these breeders are creating don’t hunt with their dogs.  They may run them, jog with them, play flyball or frisbeee or fetch in its many forms, but they certainly don’t hunt with them.  So the purpose of the dog in modern times is primarily to be a companion animal.  Like it or not the breeders in those elitist circles of the pure bred world are creating cookie cutters of their existing dogs in hopes of maintaining the glory of that champion status in a man made event of make believe to win a trophy for them, not to hunt for survival.  So out of these litters being produced, maybe one or two dogs may be kept with the hopes of obtaining another glorious first place champion status.  The rest of the litter, which is the remaining 80%, is going to the people like you.  The ones looking for the family companion that will be devoted to them and do all the activities that fit within their lifestyles. 
Who's having more fun? Kids or Dogs?
  • What about the people that compete in hunt trials and dog shows?  Well okay, it seems like something worthwhile to do in order to maintain the working function or an excellent visual representation of the breeds in question.  But, this is still not a large enough segment of the population to find a home for all the dogs being produced.  Besides, the quest for the champion status isn’t something the dogs in the competition covet.  It’s the humans that covet those.   The dog is performing to please its master.  It’s the human driving the dog to win that coveted trophy for them.  Whether in the trials or the conformation beauty contests the end goal being to drive the status of that particular animal up to a point where other breeders of the same type of dog interested in a specimen just like that will want to breed with it.  And the interested parties will pay obscene amounts of money upwards of three to five times more than what the average person pays for a puppy, just to breed with that champion stud or bitch.  The buyers sign away their privileges of full ownership so the breeder can keep control over when that stud or bitch can be bred and to whom it can be bred.  There is a lot of negotiations and money exchanged. So they too can one day have a trophy that says my dog is the best of the best.  But, is it really?  If we look at the situation in the purebred world we see so many dogs with so many problems.  And those champions that they were bred from living shorter lives than the previous generations.
Flat Coated Retriever at 10 weeks
  • So, the conflict here then becomes how the dogs the majority of us finally buy were created.  If we use the concept that seems to be the model for the status quo in the dog breeding circles then If they take a dog that has the qualities they desire and breed it to its cousin with the same qualities or a second, third cousin or even an Aunt or Uncle, perhaps a Grandparent, or worse in the extreme it’s a half brother and sister, or Son to Mother and Daughter to father, brother to sister, then the odds of maintaining those traits they value in the appearance and physical capabilities are increased.  The champion lines are thus established and bred from to create more of the same.  Okay, in theory that works, I can see how if humans were to breed to their cousins and close relatives there would be a valid explanation to why the resulting generations from their lineages would all look the same and sport the same uni-brow, but what happens if say… the dogs being bred from happen to share a health disorder common to their bloodlines? 
  • Well let’s see… If history has taught us anything then we certainly have examples of this.  The close lines of the past kings and queens of England have already shown us this.  The past traditions of relatives being matched to maintain royal bloodlines  eventually led to an entire line of really screwed up royal progeny.   Where over time this close breeding eventually amplified very undesirable traits and passed it down through each generation.  The Royal blooded humans then went through Hemophilia, Miscarriages and Shorter life expectancy. Need I say more? 
Crate Training
  • On the flip side of that, being property and a status symbol that is a reflection of us, there are actual physical defects in many dogs that are bred for on purpose to satisfy our human desire.  And in all honesty this is not isolated to just show breeders, even pet only breeders do this.  Therefore dogs with Shortened muzzles, Shortened legs, Long floppy ears, Tremendous folds of skin, huge massive heads, skin sinuses, curved sloping backs, enormous underbites, deformed sloping skulls and ataxic gaits became status symbols and the defining characteristics for many pure breeds.  YES they are actually bred for a physical deformity!  It starts out small and over time the physical exaggerations became more pronounced through the same selective line breeding process until the result is a dog with severe physical problems that threaten its life everyday.  Providing the world with future offspring that have shorter life expectancies and numerous health issues that become amplified with each additional generation produced.  All because long dead and buried humans who dictated these standards which are usually unrealistic to begin with, have created a following behind these breeds that over the last century have bred more to these exact and often unrealistic standards everyday. 
Puppy Visiting day
  • Some breeds are based on very realistic cosmetic standards.  But the fads within these clubs tend to drive them to new extremes.  It causes divisions within the clubs themselves and then more categories are created to spin off either a new variant with its own set of standards or an entire new breed.  Hmmmm.  Hold on it gets worse.
  • There are also extremist activist groups that feel purebred dogs are an irrational sin against Mother Nature.  That breeding in general should be outlawed.  They target the commercial breeders that also fit the description of puppy mills by producing a large amount of puppies to meet the demand of the public based on whatever is popular at the moment.  And for those missions they have no argument from me, since commercial outfits don’t have the well being of the dogs in mind, they treat their dogs as livestock with a sole purpose of pushing out huge supplies of puppies to sell to the demand of the public with no regard for the mothers that never see the light of day or human interaction.  But, these extremists also tend to pass quick judgment on the hobby breeders who produce dogs.  And again for the way many of these hobby breeders operate by breeding dogs for profit without a care in the world to actually learn how to insure that the pups thrive and the mother can provide for them or worse, just breeding because they feel their girl wants to experience having puppies, I can see the craziness in this and therefore these groups have no argument from me.  However, they lump all those breeders together with the ones who line breed to produce champions, which also get lumped in with the ones who breed simply to make money.  In turn they all get lumped together with the breeders who are actually trying to do something beneficial for the dogs they love.  In the eyes of the extremists these breeders are all the same and labeled backyard breeders. 
  • So the battle rages on.  And those with a purpose to breed for a dog that meets a greater demand sort of get stuck in the middle getting attacked from both sides.   What demand is that?  Well.  I know if I were looking for a dog again I would hope I find one that actually lives well into its teen years.  Doesn’t come down with some terminal illness during its lifetime, won’t go blind while its still a juvenile, and won’t blow out a hip or knee and have to live in pain for its entire life.  That is a rare thing in our modern times regardless of what breed we choose. 
Indoor Arena for Chatham Hill's dogs, Rally training begins here.
  • In modern times there is a need to breed a better dog for the purpose of serving as our long-lived companions.  There is no longer a need to breed a dog for a purpose of hunting, or for our own vain reason of winning a best in show.    The purpose for the people who actually drive the demand for more dogs is to actually get the most affection and loyalty out of that dog for as long as they can.  That’s the best bang for the buck anyone can ask for.  We put more thought into purchasing a car than we do for a dog.  And yet the dog is the bigger investment over the long term for our time and money than any car. 
Silver and Blue Longhaired Weimaraner
  • So what do you value about the dog you are about to purchase?  What do you think should justify the reason for buying that dog you are about to plunk down your hard earned money for?  Is the first question out of your mouth at the pet store or when meeting a breeder? “Does this dog come with papers?”  The idea of having papers on a dog used to mean there was some sort of increased value because of the papers.  Well what is that value today?  Are the papers doing something significant to add this value?  I suppose those papers gave birth and raised your puppy and therefore if the papers come with the puppy then my puppy must have been whelped and raised to a point better than a puppy without those papers?    Hmmm.
  • It actually used to mean the puppy you have can be bred from and the litter will be acknowledged in the established registry where the lineage of this puppy’s offspring can be traced, but even this is not the case anymore.  Because, now there's this  option called limited registration which means the litters produced from your dog can’t be registered, so if you decide to breed it to another dog of the same breed then the pups are somehow devalued since the registry will not allow you to register those puppies, which in turn stops most people with the idea in their minds that they can flip this dog into a money earning venture since it’s the perceived value of having a papered dog that allows you to brag about what you have.  So with this option gone you have to ask yourself "so why breed now?".   Now the "perceived" value from these papers has to be that for your money you got an actual purebred dog since the papers say so, therefore your dog must be far superior to any unregistered dog simply because you now have those papers.  Right?  Hmmmm.  Well, since you now understand that purebred dogs live shorter lives, are mostly line bred and have an alarmly high rate of health problems, it sort of makes those papers… worthless doesn’t it.    
Our Swimming pool, Seriously not for the dogs.  Hmmm
  • Well what about those designer dogs?  Aren’t they mixed breeds?  Aren’t mixed breeds healthier?  Well, yes and no.  Simply mixing different breeds doesn’t insure the results will be a superior specimen when compared to the parents.  You still need to make sure the negative traits in either parent doesn’t exist in order to prevent it from showing up in their pups too.  And if you do produce these hybrids you then have to maintain several different lines of parents with family trees as distant from one another as possible to continue making more lines of hybrids to breed between.  Otherwise you will find yourself looking at dogs with many of the same health problems you attempted to avoid in the first place.  Designer breeds can become so popular that eventually the same breeding practices used in the purist camps that caused their problems soon become the same problems for those designer dogs.  So again, why consider a hybrid if its gone the route of the “doodle” phenomenon?  And is there really a registry for doodles that carefully tracks the lineages?  Hmmm.
Chattie in the lake, yes they are a water dog
  • Okay then, what about those pet only breeders?  They aren't line breeding from these show champions, right?  Then aren't they the right choice since they breed to address the concerns of the pet market? Wouldn't I get a healthier dog from them since they likely have no idea what a champion dog is or the concept of line breeding?  Hmmmm.  Well, that depends.  You see there are lots of hobby breeders who love their dogs and the breeds they choose to promote.  But you rarely find them maintaining multiple lines of dogs that aren't closely related, and as most hobby breeders do this out of their single family home in the middle of suburbia they really can't maintain multiple lines of dogs, usually they have just a mated pair with little to no knowledge of lineage.  The hobby breeders with more property tend to keep one or two studs and a whole harem full of females.  So basically they promote another type of phenomenon called same sire syndrome.  Where all the dogs are still the product of a single stud and therefore all the puppies saturate the demographic they sell to with the same genetic cookie cutter template of the parent.   Most don't know anything about the parents of their dogs or the known genetic defects of their chosen breed.  Much less what DNA tests they should consider to screen their dogs for any possible genetic issues.  They might never test for physical problems or even visit their veterinary service on a regular basis.  Most of them see their litters as a bonus for that new TV, Car, Mini-Vacation or gadget they normally wouldn't consider without the extra income as a shot in the arm.  Others actually use their dogs as their only source of income and don't really know much beyond what happens if you get the two dogs to hook up.
  • They have no interview process in place to screen the interested buyers for the proper accommodations, personal time, and patience for a new puppy.  They never check references, always take your money and maybe even ship to anywhere and anyone who wants to buy one of their puppies without ever speaking with you, meeting you or doing any background check at all.   For them, its more about selling all the puppies and collecting their money.  In the end the buyer might get a good puppy or might get themselves into a really bad situation.  And a few weeks or months later  you either find a puppy with a congenital health issue or a serious temperament issue.  So its a life of vet bills and stress along with a drain on your pocket or a puppy soon finding itself in a shelter and a whole lot of guilt or perhaps no guilt at all depending on who the buyer is, remember beyond asking "how would you like to pay for this puppy?" these breeders usually don't ask many questions.   And they typically hope the buyers don't ask many either.  For them its all about taking advantage of that natural human impulse to just have one of their damn cute puppies.  Go figure...
  • These were concerns my family always had ourselves since prior to being a breeder, we were a buyer.  Its human nature to fall in love with the puppies we see in the pet store or nowadays even online.  We can’t fault you there… they can be so damn cute.  But, impulsive buying of a pet, can get you stuck with a mistake.  Which then finds many dogs winding up in a shelter and then adding more fuel to the reasons those extremists get all “mafia” on the rest of us.
Yes...a swimming pool for people.
  • My family loves our dogs.   They are all unique with their own personalities.  Their individual quirks make our emotions go into overdrive.  They define who we are and provide us with stimulation through their presence and their actions that don’t require words or conversation.  They are intelligent and problem solving.  They are observant and record each day’s events like a sponge.  Yet they are predictable creatures of habit that give us reason to get up each day and a routine to look forward to throughout our day.  And they have become our living experiment as a proof of concept that there is a better way to breed for a healthier and happier dog.  By simply avoiding inbreeding at all costs and by selective breeding between different breeds.  Outcrossing then backcrossing the results to achieve the same look or phenotype of the target breed.   To do what our ancestors did to create the healthy dog over a century ago before the registries were closed.  When they were allowed to mix and match different types of dogs to produce the look and temperament with inherent abilities they found desirable.  In their quest to create a dog, they actually promoted genetic diversity by mixing breeds.  The dogs from that time were all designer mongrels without a studbook and a registry.  They were mixed to create a new look and therefore a new breed.  They lived longer and had fewer health problems.  And they weren’t bred to have extreme exaggerated crippling features.  I know…..What a concept.  
Pick a color
  • Well, then is there a value in how the dogs that are used to make my puppy are raised and cared for?  How they are provided stimulation and training?  Exercise and play?  Absolutely there is.  So when I look for a puppy I’ll be sure its parents are in good health and jump at the chance to actually meet and interact with the parent dogs of my future pup.  Because a good indication of what my puppy will look like is what I see in those parents.  And a baseline on how that puppy will be as far as temperament is part how the parents naturally are and part how the breeders raise them.  So I would prefer a breeder that does handle the pups from the day they are born all the way up until the day it comes home with me.  And provides socialization with other dogs, people and visitors the entire whelping period.  Introducing it to smells and sounds and sights so it will be a very confident and calm puppy by the time I get it.  Maybe even leash breaking and crate training it prior to pick up day.  I would like to know they are actually concerned about their breed and know the history behind their chosen breed.  That they don't have a single stud or two and that they have enough dogs to mix and match genes and keep the genetic deck shuffled in a positive way for the breeding population of their chosen breed.  That each litter they produce is their way to actually improve the long term outlook for that breed.  Yes, that’s what I would want.
Yellow Chatham Hill Retrievers

  • What about tests?  Don’t these tests add value to my choice for a puppy?  You hear about testing for hips, joints and eyes and other things that are associated with these breeds.  Why are all these breeders always saying never buy from a litter where the parents weren’t tested?  Well, okay we understand why they are saying this.  To a point we can agree with the people who preach this.  To a point.  You see the parents of our dogs were tested for all the clearances associated for the breeds in question.  But, in reality all the physical testing in the world isn’t going to prevent our dogs from coming down with these disorders or prevent their pups from getting them if they are genetically setup to get them anyway.  I can test my dogs now and they will all show up as good on all the tests for many years.  But, the physical tests don’t prevent anything.  They only confirm what the condition of the dog is at the time of testing.  If any breeder tells you the tests will provide for a litter that is free and clear of these disorders because the parents passed….. they’re lying, Sorry.  And the tests don’t prevent these disorders from showing up later in life.  They certainly don’t guarantee the puppy won’t suddenly become lame or blind if both parents pass.  
  • These test also won't prevent or cure any congenital defect nor will they predict a degenerative defect.  They will only tell you if the reason your dog is lame on the day of the test is from either of these or just fatigue or an injury,  So in this regard, I do think these tests have a strong value as a baseline tool for the breeder.  As a way of measuring their own efforts in the dogs they create and the dogs they care for and as a measure of whether their lifelong experiments have paid off.  Not as a guarantee to the buyer that this is a preventive measure to keep future puppies from getting any of these disorders or a cure for the dogs you tested if they in fact have it.  In fact the best way to stop these disorders from cropping up all the time is to change the methods the veteran breeders use for selective breeding.  And I’ll tell you honestly….they aren’t going to stop.
At the Vet again
  • So the tests add a perceived value to a new puppy, a false one.  These physical tests themselves are a valuable measure of the status and condition of the tested dog.  Really simple when you think of it.   So what about our dogs?  Well, yes we’ve bought dogs that were tested and puppies whose parents were tested.  And we’ve had dogs we’ve produced tested when we felt it was necessary to understand what was going on when a dog came up lame.  So, as a tool to ascertain the current condition and either rule out or confirm it is in fact a hip or joint problem it is a value.  As a preventive measure it is entirely useless.  So if any of my dogs should ever turn up lame from hip dysplasia or luxating patella it verifies that the testing of my dogs parents did nothing to prevent what was inevitable.  But I will test them to verify whether it was from a congenital defect or an injury.  And then make the best decision on how to treat it.  And for all of those nosey purists out there reading this blog...Radiology and X-ray results submitted to OFA for submittal to the AKC are voluntary.   So if you don't wish to share information in an already skewed set of statistics then you don't have to.  If you keep this in mind then when mostly the Excellent, Good and Fair results are all that is submitted it should make you wonder how many dogs actually failed and never had results submitted.  And if that number can be skewed then it only fools you.  Our Veterinary service provides these tests, and our Veterinarian already said that there has been no significant improvement in diminishing the number of occurrences of hip dysplasia in dogs.  Period.  The numbers presented don't match what the veterinarians are seeing.
  • On the other hand, we do wholeheartedly believe that if you can test at the genetic level for debilitating disorders that would pass onto the puppies.  Then breeders should do them.   At the DNA level of science things are very definite.  And at this level the decisions made to omit a dog from further breeding if they test positive for those bad genes is a good one.  However, show breeders tend to test for these genes and knowing that if they only have one dog in the pairing with these genes will use it anyway.  WHY?  because they know it requires both parents to actually pass the defect on.  But, then if they decide to line breed with a resulting puppy later on, the odds of doubling up on those bad genes just became a possibility again.  So they take this risk, for the sake of their coveted trophy.  And let the next person worry about the inherited issues.   That person being the buyer.  And the veterinary costs and the stress then begin to grow.
Full grown Chatties
  • The average dog owner spends about 40k on the health and well being of their pet during its entire lifetime, which is anywhere between 6 to 15 years, depending on the breed.  For a responsible pet owner, it's a huge payout and a financial commitment to own a dog.  My family puts in about 25% to 50% of that lifetime figure annually for our entire pack of dogs.  So the health and well being of our pack is certainly a priority in our lives.  Just like it is for our own children.  We, are very much in tune with our dogs well being.  If they aren't acting like we know them to be.... We're on top of it.   
  • And well… there’s so much more to what we do and how we do things….. We can say we’ve produced over 110 dogs and none have turned up with cancer….none are blind and only one, a purebred, turned up lame and it was quickly corrected.   None of our hybrids have had any congenital hereditary health issues.   
  • Why?  Our thinking is….. by simply trying to avoid inbreeding.  Via adding diversity to our gene pool by avoiding finding our breeding dogs from the same demographic regions.  Our dogs come from different time zones, different countries and different lineages.  We also added a yellow/cream color variation back into our breeding program that is typically bred away from and we use other breeds to create hybrids, which through out crossing and backcrossing promotes diversity in our pack's genetic pool. 
  • Although we do make a small profit for the work, time and effort we put in, we certainly don't make a living off our dogs.  We do however, take most of what we do make and reinvest it into the well being of our dogs.  We pay their vet bills, pay for their care and housing.  Heck, we even bought an equestrian ranch just to make it into a doggie dude ranch for our dogs.  But, we make a living doing what most of our clients do.  By actually holding down a nice real world job and fostering a career.  The dogs are our hobby and we try our best to give back to them as much as we can for all the joy they bring into our lives. 
  • The formula seems to be working for us.  As a result we've put our dogs in homes serving as family companions, therapy dogs, disability assistance dogs, and real world hunting dogs.  As we've discovered, we do much more extensive interviews and background checks than just about every other breeder out there.  Yes, including every single pure breed show dog breeder we've ever encountered.  And we've been working with other breeders here in the USA and in Sweden, Australia, and Canada to continue to promote genetic diversity.  We've participated in cancer research studies and maintain more personal and professional links with Genetic researchers, Medical practitioners and Veterinary practitioners than most of the purists and extremist that throw stones at us for not using the same blinders that they've had on for the past century.  In fact many of these professionals are family, relatives, friends and also our clients.  
  • In the end the best thing to happen for the canine world has been the awareness brought to the public.  The Public is listening, and the awareness is everywhere.  The biggest registry in the USA has fewer people joining it as more awareness is brought to the public attention about the craziness in the Purist camps.  And recent documentaries like "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" provides a reality check to the kennel clubs that are finally beginning to reform.  Modern society and the public majority is just fed up and not going to take anymore BS.  The Purists who've threatened my family and the Extremists who tried to undermine our endeavors.... all fail because in the end they are typically very closed minded.  There is so much more to it, but I guess you just have to know us to understand our perspective.  We appreciate all those out there who do know us.   The rest can feel free to ask them anything you want to know about us.  We keep in touch with all our puppy owners.   And they enjoy keeping in touch with us.  


Flatties, Chatties, Cockers and Wiems...almost the whole gang


  1. Just wanted to add here...PennHip exams are mandatory that the x-rays taken are submitted. It is not voluntary....if you take the x-ray it gets sent into the registry. They do not, however, have a public website to review anyone's results. They are private.

    1. Penn Hip is also a small representation of the entire population of any given breed. If not all the dogs are tested... then you only have a guess based on the segment that is tested. Setting a baseline about the bigger picture on a very small cross section of a population is providing a guess. So as a measure of what you have to work with this is okay, but not conclusive. And it's still not a fix for the entire population since again only one or two dogs out of 10 from a litter are tested. You require 10 of 10 consistently to create a baseline that can be truly conclusive and useful for everyone.


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